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When Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney made the decision to push for Madison Square Garden as the host venue of the 2018 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, he knew there was risk involved.
To get the historic venue, he had to move the tournament up one week ahead of normal protocol, since the Big East already occupies it the following week.
Delaney defended his decision because of the magnitude of “The Garden,” calling it “Mecca.”
The Big Ten Tournament will tip off on Feb. 28, which not only is one week ahead of the normal schedule, but also a week ahead of all the other major conference tournaments.
Once the Big Ten tourney concludes, the 14 teams will have idle time to watch teams from other similar power conferences continue to stay in rhythm and try to hit March Madness in a groove.
The possible two-week layoff for Big Ten teams has caused some coaches to worry.
“I don’t think any of the coaches were actually for [moving the tournament],” one anonymous Big Ten coach told ESPN. “But there was no point in fighting it because we had no choice in the matter.”
Along with the two-week layoff, for which Big Ten coaches are already scrambling for ways to find tune-up games to keep their guys fresh, the early tournament also has a big impact on the regular season non-conference schedule.
As Roman Stubbs of the Washington Post noted in a recent report, the beginning of the season is going to be even more of a grind than usual.
Michigan State could play six games in three states in 12 days. Purdue, slated for three games in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving weekend, will return stateside to play three more games in two states in eight days. Maryland will play five games in four states in 11 days.
“(December has) been hard. It’s hard to get all of the games in. As coaches, we really didn’t want to have to play over Christmas this year if we could help it. So we decided to make everything fair and play two league games in December. Does it make December harder? Yeah.”
The Big Ten Conference has seen quite a few changes this summer with new head coaches at Illinois, Indiana and Ohio State. The dynamic of the conference may have been different even without this first of its kind conference tournament change, but only time will tell just how much of an impact the early start makes.
Look for teams to try to get creative with their schedules this season, possibly trying to find extra quality wins in the middle of most schools’ conference tournaments, scrimmage against lower-level schools, or simply use the time to work hard in the practice gym and recuperate before March Madness.